Get Into the Studio by Chris Foley

Steven Pressfield on the importance of showing up and starting:

Shut up and get into the studio. Once your physical envelope is standing before the easel, your heart and mind will follow.

If you want to write, plant your backside in front of the typewriter. Don’t get up from the chair, no matter how many brilliantly-plausible reasons your Resistance-churning brain presents to you. Sooner or later your fingers will settle onto the keys. Not long after that, I promise, the goddess will slip invisibly but powerfully into the room.

Technology vs. Business Models by Chris Foley

The development of business models behind technological innovation is what will fuel growth, argues Irving Wladawsky-Berger:

New technology alone, - no matter how transformative, - is not enough to propel a business into the future.  The business model wrapped around the technology is the key to its success or failure…

…Business model innovation has long been the domain of disruptive startups looking to compete against established companies by changing the rules of the game, - and, hopefully, creating new markets and reshaping entire industries.  But, it’s no longer enough for established companies to just roll out improved products and services based on their once-reliable business models.

This is something that I’ve emphasized in my workshops on technology in the music studio - having devices and apps won’t make a big difference in your teaching. It’s the agenda behind it (both core pedagogical process and business model) that will provide the impetus for making technology genuinely useful.

(Via Wally Bock)

Remembering Roger D. Moore by Chris Foley


The Canadian musical scene just lost one of its most active philanthropists, as Roger D. Moore passed away last week. Having made his fortune in the computer industry, Roger decided to spend the rest of his life funding new work for the concert stage and theatre. The list of works he has commissioned is long indeed, and I am personally thankful to Roger for sponsoring Tapestry’s Composer/Librettist Laboratory for over a decade.

Many who live and work in Toronto noticed Roger riding his bike to concerts throughout the GTA. He was probably the most cultured person in town, and routinely saw between two and four performances a day, many of which he funded. He was the type of person that anyone would feel comfortable talking to, and I remember many conversations about the early days of both the computer industry and Toronto’s opera scene. He was highly trusted by both boards and performing artists, and at Tapestry he frequently advised both.

In computer science, Roger’s company I.P. Sharp Associates built the packet-switching protocols of IPSANET, one of the ancestors of the modern internet and one of the first packet-switching frameworks that allowed for the development of email.

One of Roger’s final projects was the cataloging of COC productions from 1950 to 2019.

Photo above is courtesy of Tapestry Opera. I’ll add more links as they become available.

Update: For those interested in attending the visitation, it will be from 2-4pm today at the G.H. Hogle Funeral Home, 63 Mimico Avenue in Etobicoke.

Here’s a tribute to Roger put together by Stacie Dunlop last year:

Nao on NPR's Tiny Desk by Chris Foley

There’s so much to like in this 20-minute Nao set which starts out strong and gets better and better. The moments where Nao’s vocals surprisingly dip into her lower range offer lots of contrast with her natural high voice. The counterpoint between Nao and the backup singers (especially the lower range of Taylor Samuels) is well crafted. The band shows lots of cohesion and groove, from the tonal quality of guitarist Ariel O’Neal, the excellent chord voicing of Joe Price in keyboards, not to mention the understated backbeat from Henry Guy on bass and Samson Jatto on drums. Put this recording on and listen all the way to the end.

The Quick Start Guide to Starting Projects in the Performing Arts by Chris Foley

I’m always inspired by stories of people in the performing arts who create new initiatives that serve the needs of their communities. Seemingly out of nowhere, someone has an idea, builds it into a project, makes it viable, and serves the community, creating a sustainable initiative that also provides employment for its creator and others. These are the types of initiatives that build genuine growth in the arts.

At the same time, I’m concerned by the number of people I meet who have great ideas that never get off the ground. What follows is a way to get from idea to action in a minimum of time so you can take advantage of the larger pool of outcomes that arise from being able to launch new initiatives, whether it be a new concert series, your first play, learning to create in a new medium, or simply upgrading your skills.

  1. Visualize yourself immersed in the process of what you want to do. No, I didn’t say visualize yourself enjoying the trappings of success on a beach in Hawaii or driving a McLaren down the street. You have to visualize yourself in the trenches, with your hands doing the actual work. Because if you’re going to make a go of your project, you’re going to have to show up to do the work, day after day, year after year, making something that will be viable and sustainable. What you discover in this step will determine whether you decide to go onward or choose another course of action.

  2. Take advantage of downtime. Life in the performing arts (and the entire freelance job market) often takes the form of feast or famine. Utilizing the spaces in your schedule is a strong starting point for any future endeavours. Time can be an asset if you’re motivated to create new work.

  3. Brainstorm. Pen and paper are the best for this. The free flow of ideas can unlock the vast realm of possibility, complete with ideas and connections between them. Research on the brain’s default mode has shown that the mental processes unlocked by daydreaming or taking walks is in fact what unlocks the full range of seeing possible future outcomes.

  4. Write a list of actions from start to finish. Your list can consist of either parallel or sequential actions. Your most important resources are money and time. Budget for both. Revise as you move through #5, 6, and 7.

  5. Leverage pre-existing skills, networks, and infrastructure. When I created the Tapestry Songbook/New Opera 101 program at Tapestry Opera in 2010, I took advantage of 20 years of new opera commissions from the company to compile a list of Canadian repertory arias that could be utilized to teach young singers and pianists about the new opera process. You have stuff lying around that can be repurposed. You have many skills, some of which are left dormant for years. You have social media and real-life communities all around you. Use them to create something new.

  6. Learn new skills as needed. Everyone’s education has gaps. In order to succeed, we need to fill them in. Skill acquisition can be a path towards a larger goal, or even the goal itself.

  7. Ask for help (or hire) as needed. Those around us have the answers to many of the questions we pose. Often a conversation with someone that knows the ropes can help. At other times, it’s best to hire someone, whether for services, consulting, coaching/teaching, or employment. Budgeting will be required in step 4.

  8. Work swiftly and mercilessly through your action list. Once you’ve got the steps mapped out, start executing. Taking action quickly can create an energy and momentum that is highly motivating.

  9. Launch your preliminary work quickly, then refine. Here your advantage is to move fast, and this is an asset that individuals and small organizations will always have over slower, more systematic large organizations. When you’re small, the principles of Agile philosophy become apparent: delivery a satisfying product early, and iterate quickly as it develops. A successful bootstrapped one-off concert can develop into a viable series as it gains an audience and funding.

  10. Commit for the long haul. After I made a mid-career decision to move full-time into piano teaching, it was still 6-7 years before I had a full schedule. In the interim, I was learning about piano pedagogy, apprenticing as an RCM examiner, learning the ropes of advertising, and building a teaching repertoire. If you’ve been honest with yourself in step 1, you can make it all the way to creating something viable and sustainable. The process at its end is transformative.

What are your recent success stories? What success stories inspire you? What have I left out? Leave a comment below and let’s talk.

(Image courtesy of Francesco Gallarotti on Unsplash)

Tineke Steenbrink | J.S. Bach Prelude and Fugue from WTC I BWV 851 by Chris Foley

After 7 and a half hours of teaching, I just realized that I’m a full day late in celebrating the birthday of J.S. Bach. This recording of Tineke Steenbrink playing the D minor Prelude and Fugue from Book I of the WTC is part of the Netherlands Bach Society’s All of Bach project. If you would like to consider donating to help continue the project, check out this link.

I like the way that the videography emphasizes the simplicity of the studio (Ikea shelving! Tons of books!) as much as Tineke’s perceptive and elegant playing. Note the very happy audience member at 2:24.

One Productivity Tip to Rule Them All by Chris Foley

Vince Coley’s Productive With a Purpose is developing into one of the most unconventional and useful new productivity blogs I’ve seen in a while. His most recent post arises from a project to encapsulate the entirety of productivity information from the internet (anyone else been down that rabbit hole?) into simple categories:

My first big ah ha moment struck when I realized that every Productivity Tip I came across fell into one of three buckets.  I call these “The Three Buckets of Productivity”:

- Care for your MIND & BODY (… so you can experience intense Clarity)

- Establish a TRUSTED PRODUCTIVITY SYSTEM (… so you can enjoy endless Focus)

- Prioritize what’s TRULY IMPORTANT (… so you can make a lasting Impact)

Vince’s next step was to encapsulate all three buckets into one über-statement:

When you wake up in the morning: drink a glass of water (clarity), plan your day (focus) and do the most important thing first (impact).

What I find particularly notable (and trustworthy!) about Productive With a Purpose is that Vince doesn’t appear to be selling a product, but merely documenting his productivity journey and systems. My favorite post is Be a Pebble Snatching, Productivity Fu Master, which outlines the best GTD implementation of Things 3 that I’ve seen.

Sandra Mogensen's En Pleine Lumière: Shining a Light on 19th-Century Women Composers by Chris Foley

An upcoming project of Copenhagen-based pianist Sandra Mogensen is to perform and record the piano works of 19th-century women composers. Starting with concerts in southern Ontario, the project will culminate in a recording session at the Immanuelskirche in Wuppertal this June. Composers represented include Valborg Aulin, Amy Beach, Mel Bonis, Cécile Chaminade, Helen Hopekirk, Luise Adolpha LeBeau, Inga Laerum-Liebig, Sophie Menter, and Laura Netzel.

Sandra on how the project took shape and where its next steps will lead:

Although it was only a few weeks ago, I barely remember how the idea came to me to do a recording of piano music by women of the 19th century. It has been full-on researching and practising ever since though, and I am smitten by each and every composer that comprises this program! The time has come for this music to be heard far and wide, and I aim to do my part to shine some light on these undeservedly overlooked gorgeous gems. That’s where the project’s title comes from: “en pleine lumière” (in full light).

This idea to do a recording has actually been steadily (daily!) evolving, such that the scope of the project will turn into more of a life’s mission. The focus on solo piano repertoire will expand into song repertoire and chamber music involving the piano, beginning with the 19th century and progressing through to present day. My vision is that through recordings, live performances, video projects and podcasts, I can help to bring these deserving artists to a wider audience. But more about all of that later...for now it is time to focus on Phase One, which is this “Volume One” recording and concerts featuring music composed by women born in the mid-1800s.

Sandra playing Luisa Adolpha LeBeau’s Prelude:

En plein lumière is available to pre-order for those interested in becoming an early backer of this project. If you’re in the Sarnia area, you can check out her performance of the program at the Sarnia Library Theatre this Saturday.

The Gryphon Trio Play Rebecca Clarke by Chris Foley

This has been a big week for the Gryphon Trio, who just won a Juno award for best Classical Album, Solo or Chamber. These occasions are above all an opportunity to put the spotlight on the music itself, and the Gryphon Trio’s End of Flowers album features a piano trio by the long-neglected British-American composer Rebecca Clarke. Here’s the first movement:

The Rebecca Clarke Society has more information and news about Clarke’s life, works, and upcoming events.

The Gryphon Trio are:

Annalee Patipatanakoon, violin
Roman Borys, cello
James Parker, piano

On a side note, Jamie may or may not have thanked violists for their unwavering support at their acceptance speech at the Juno awards ceremony.